First Ladies
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

The term "first lady" didn't make it into a dictionary until 1935. The earliest presidents' wives were called "Presidentress" or "Mrs. President," or often were simply ignored. Dolley Madison was the first to bear the title (in a play long after her death). Jacqueline Kennedy forbade her staff to ever use the appelation, reportedly deeming the term more appropriate for a saddle horse.
Today, for better or worse, the term and the institution of First Lady are integral--though still evolving--aspects of our political and cultural landscape, and this is the first full treatment of the subject. Covering all 37 women from Martha Washington to Nancy Reagan (counting is complicated by the fact that daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters of presidents were sometimes pressed into service), the book shows how the role of First Lady was transformed from ceremonial backdrop at best to sustantive world figure. Along the way, the book intoroduces a remarkable cast of characters, many not at all what one would expect of a presidential help-mate.
From Abigail Adams, whose "remember the ladies" became a twentieth century feminist refrain, to Edith Wilson, who alone controlled access to the President when he had suffered a stroke; from Jane Pierce who used her health as an a excuse for doing very little to Pat Nixon who perfected what some have call "the robot image," the Presidents' wives have been a very diverse group with vastly differing attitudes toward their role. They ranged in age from early 20s the late 60s. Some were superbly educated for their time; others, poorly schooled. Some were courageous and adventuresome; a few were emotionally unstable. Some were ambitious; others despised the public arena. A suprising number were superior to their husbands socially and economically. Because of their position, they left remarkably complete records, and their stories offer us a window to view not only this particular sorority of women--holders of what sociologists now call "derivative power"--but also American women in general.

About the Author

Betty Boyd Caroli is Profesor of History at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, and co-author of Today's Immigrants, Their Stories. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Being First Lady is probably the hardest unpaid job in the United States. The thirty-six First Ladies (some of them daughters or other relatives) have been a highly varied group. Three have married an incumbent President; three have died in office. Caroli takes a look at each of them and their effect on the job, and also examines the ways the role of First Lady has changed over the years as American society and public expectations have changed. A ranking of the First Ladies by historians is included. Though not intended to be an in-depth study of either the First Ladies or the institution, this is an interesting and thoughtful overview that will appeal to a variety of readers. Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A concise cultural history of our First Ladies March 4, 1999
By A Customer
Betty Boyd Caroli has written a concise cultural history of our First Ladies. But her observations on how each era shaped the next was only mildly insigthful if not predictable hindsight.
I was disappointed there was less information about our early first ladies than there was on our more recent ones. Either some of our first ladies did not leave complete records or Coroli simply felt the more recent ones deserved more attention.
Overall, First Ladies is 80% hard research and 20% gossip of the day which will keep you turning the pages. And if you like, chapters can be read as separate essays. I found this a good book to leave out in guestroom or bathroom!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book March 24, 2010
By willy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My wife wanted this book, and is enjoying it but she wish it would have been a Hardback, maybe I was not listening very well that day.
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